Getting the lowdown on Riverside Festival with Stuart McMillan
Welcome to Festival Insider's Organizer Q&A series. Here, we have intimate conversations with some of the festival market's most exciting and influential innovators.
Regulars of the European festival circuit would have 100% heard of Riverside Festival. An annual celebration of electronic music set in the iconic grounds of the Riverside Museum, Glasgow. Featuring an array of international and local talent alike, covering multiple genres, and catering to all ages. We had the delight of catching up with Stuart McMillan (Slam), one of the organizers.
What is your name and what is the name of your festival?
Hi, my name is Stuart McMillan, I'm one half of Slam and I'm one of the organizers of Riverside Festival in Glasgow.
When did the festival start and what inspired it?
The festival started in 2013, and we've been inspired mainly by the location. You know, at that point there was a growing trend of city festivals, you know, urban festivals, bringing the festival away from the countryside and back into the city centre.
The location of the Riverside Museum is such a fantastic location that, you know, that was being on the River Clyde had an integral part of Glasgow's history. We felt that was, you know, probably the best place to do a festival you know, involving, you know, in Glasgow.
When and where does it happen?
The festival happens in the grounds of the Riverside Museum, designed by Zaha Hadid - it's a wonderful-looking structure. In fact, we use all the design of the museum in all of our marketing. The way that this is such a distinctive piece of architecture, that whether it's spiky, you know, roof arrangement. It's just such a striking building and such a great view of Glasgow, along the Quaid, and it has the historic element to it as well because it has the toll ship on the other side as well.
The festival happens normally in May, due to this year, we have had to move it to September, due to the pandemic obviously.
What kind of musical artists play at your festival?
The main focus of the festival is electronic artists and that can range from experimental to hard techno to more house. We try and keep an ear to the ground and bring along emerging artists, something new and something fresh. We try to be as diverse as possible with the lineup we include a lot of local artists, it's Glasgow's festival, Glasgow's celebration of electronic music, so we try and incorporate that into the festival. And we try and book as many different genres spread over now three days.
Who was the first act you ever booked?
The first acts we booked were Jamie XX, and Underground Resistance, and that was in 2013. So it's been running now for eight years, and yeah, it's every year is a highlight for us.
What’s the most memorable set or sets for you?
I mean, we've had everybody play there. Jeff Mills, some of the old school guys like Jeff Mills and Laurent Garnier they've been some of the most memorable sets that we've had. We also as artists as well, we play there every year and I remember one particular highlight being the lights going down and Jeff Mills doing his thing was incredible, Laurent Garnier doing his thing was incredible. Every year is, has always Rodhad, a guy from Berlin in Germany doing an amazing set there, and the crowd is such an amazing crowd that it's hard not to find highlights in most of the sets that get played.
Who is the target audience for your festival?
Our target audience is young but it's very inclusive. We're not trying to say these are the only people that we want, you know, young, old, you know, it doesn't matter. You know, what, what matters with Riverside is that people come along with the right attitude.
What is unique about your festival? What sets it apart?
I think what's unique about Riverside is the location and the passion that we try to enter the festival and obviously the use of the locations. As I mentioned before, it's really unique. Yeah, it's just I think it's unique because it's the venue, and where it's held is a unique place and I think the people of Glasgow make it memorable every year.
What are some of the challenges you've faced in organizing your festival?
Obviously, Glasgow, the weather is a challenge - you know running an outdoor festival, in a country in Scotland where we can be forced to break with rain or wind or whatever. These are been some of the challenges that we're faced with today apart from logistical challenges, like artists arriving on time and stuff like that, I'd say I mean, the main challenge is the weather.
I mean, we've been really lucky, we've been really lucky we've not had too much rain. I think mainly because we decided to do it in May, and May is historically nice weather in Scotland.